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Well, as I'm typing this one of my hard disks is going down.

RAPIDLY. The data is disapearing it seems from windows explorer.

I have backups of some this data and its non-critical that I save it all, but I'd like to save as much of it as I can.

What should I do now?

Folders are just.. disappearing from Windows explorer. I'm able to copy files, but its moving really slowly. my copy operations are going really slowly.

Should I turn off the machine and disconnect the disk? should I keep doing what i'm doing trying to rescue the most important files before their folders disappear too?

Should I shut down and make sure the disk cools off then run chkdsk?

What is happening here and why are my folders going away?

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migrated from serverfault.com Aug 7 '09 at 1:02

This question came from our site for professional system and network administrators.

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Copying 20GB of data.. "1 day remaining". I love how Windows 7 has become so.. user friendly. –  bobobobo Aug 6 '09 at 22:54
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From your description, it could be a number of things. Do you have a backup? I hope you aren't posting here from that computer. If this is a failing drive, stop using it immediately and use a different computer to research the problem. –  romandas Aug 6 '09 at 22:58
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7 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

As I answered here in another "hard drive failing" question:

I had success once recovering information by placing the HDD into a USB enclosure, placing the enclosure into a gallon-size ziploc bag, and placing the bag into the freezer (the bag is to help keep condensation from forming). I pulled data off the drive while it was in the freezer, and got a very strange look from the wife as she walked by and saw the usb cord running out of the freezer. My understanding of the process is that the deep cold of the freezer causes a slight contraction of the HDD parts, bringing them back into alignment. Like I said - it worked for me, but no guarantees. My HDD was making a ticking sound and would keep having problems reading files.

Either way, the sooner you get that data, the better.

The way I see it, it can't hurt, especially if the drive is dying. Use it as little as possible until you're recovering the data - then, do that as quickly as possible.

Edit: Not sure why the downvote, but it's well-documented on the web to have worked. http://geeksaresexy.blogspot.com/2006/01/freeze-your-hard-drive-to-recover-data.html

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I vote for shutting down the computer ASAP, ripping out the drive, and living with whatever data you have in backups, while you still have it.

Also, this really doesn't sound like it's a server or even a workstation, nevermind one that you administer. It sounds like this belongs on superuser.com.

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+1 for superuser. –  romandas Aug 6 '09 at 23:09
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Ok, so if he were to re-word the question "folders on my server are dissapearing" it would be OK, even though it's exactly the same problem? –  Mark Henderson Aug 6 '09 at 23:16
    
I realize that the turnaround time for answers on serverfault.com is pretty quick, but I would expect that on a server, you wouldn't waste the time waiting for answers, and instead get your butt in gear replacing that drive. Neither would you bother waiting hours for chkdsk to do its job. –  Ernie Dunbar Aug 6 '09 at 23:35
    
Hmm true... –  Mark Henderson Aug 6 '09 at 23:47
    
It's not a server. Sorry, this question does belong on superuser. My bad. –  bobobobo Aug 6 '09 at 23:56
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Shut it down. Let it sit. Then, boot up some disk clone software and clone it to a hard drive of equal or greater size.

I've had good luck with this software: http://www.easeus.com/disk-copy/

see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disk_cloning

SIDE NOTE: If you don't already, in the future, keep you system and data on separate drives (NOT partitions). It could simplify this process and spreads the work out.

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+1 for "let it sit". A drive that's overheating may exhibit all sorts of problems. –  chris Aug 7 '09 at 1:59
    
One problem I had during an attempted copy (just before it stopped working) was a CRC error. If the disk has problems reading, then is a diskclone a good idea? –  bobobobo Aug 7 '09 at 3:54
    
If you got nothing to loose but your data, you might as well. Copy the healthy data to a mechanically healthy drive to buy time. –  craigmoliver Aug 7 '09 at 14:45
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If things are disappearing in front of you, I'd power off the machine - no point in worrying about disk corruption at this point.

Then, boot from a linux-based rescue CD, put the HDD into an external USB box, and see if there was anything that could be saved.

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I'd do a clean shutdown and then run chkdsk. Individual files disappearing would not likely be caused by a bad disk, but could conceivably be due to filesystem corruption.

The problem may even go away after just a reboot, especially if it's not a hardware problem.

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If files are literally "disappearing" in front of you, I'd guess you have some sort of malicious software running on your machine. Hard drive problems usually manifest themselves as read errors, not files disappearing from a browser window. So I'd agree with the suggestion that you turn off the computer immediately, then extract the data on that disk to a new PC (or your current one with a new hard disk and a fresh OS install).

But I think there's something nasty on your system now. Make sure you kill it and don't let it spread.

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I would use live CD to boot the OS from the CD. This would ensure that malacious software would do no further damage from the current OS on the hard disk. For example: BartPE for Windows. It would detect the harddisk and all the data present on the disk. You can then backup on external USB device like flash drive/hard disk.

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